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Elon Musk announces he is writing a book about Tesla and SpaceX

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced via Twitter that he will be writing a book about the two companies’ stories. The long and tumultuous story of Musk’s endeavor of running an automaker and a space program at the same time will be told by the man who experienced it himself.

Up until now, only one book has been written about Musk’s story with his consent: a biography composed by Ashlee Vance, published in 2015. The book, titled “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” tells the story of Musk’s life from his childhood, through the Zip2 and PayPal days, and continuing to the early success and trials of the entrepreneur at Tesla and SpaceX.

Interestingly, Musk sat down with Vance to discuss the book prior to writing. Vance said that he shared a meal with Musk to talk about what portions of Musk’s life would be included in the book. Ultimately, Vance wanted to write the story with no interruptions or gaps in space, and Musk allowed it.

However, Musk has some knowledge that many of us have likely never heard. The early days of Tesla and SpaceX were likely the hardest of his life as he tried to balance finances and projects to make both companies successful. It was an endeavor that nearly drove Musk to a “nervous breakdown,” he said in an interview with 60 Minutes.

While many Musk interviews have been open about the prospect of what he experienced during those days, lengthy interviews regarding his personal life and the trying times of 2008 are hard to come by. Condensed versions of the story can be found in many places, but Musk himself is ready to detail it in his own book.

Additionally, Tesla and SpaceX have both grown considerably since the Vance biography was released in 2015. Tesla has released two new mass-market cars, with the Model 3’s early manufacturing days being described as “production hell” by Musk. Additionally, SpaceX has launched a variety of new products and projects, like Starlink, a worldwide internet service that aims to be affordable for everyone on the planet.

The stories Musk will tell in his new book will likely be some of the most interesting the Tesla community has ever heard, and the world will likely read as well. Vance’s biography of Musk was declared one of the best books of 2015 by numerous outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Amazon.com. It spent several months on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into 40 different languages.

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Elon Musk’s Starlink user documents are filled with meme-worthy Easter Eggs

A rollout for SpaceX’s “Better than Nothing Beta” for Starlink is now underway. And in true Elon Musk fashion, it appears that Starlink’s Terms of Service and Installation Guidelines include several memelord-worthy (and surprisingly sensible) Easter Eggs. Needless to say, the space community has been charmed. 

Among the most notable of these Easter Eggs lay in the Starlink system’s Installation Guidelines. As noted by CNBC space reporter Michael Sheetz, SpaceX’s official Installation Guidelines have revealed that the private space firm is fondly calling its Starlink user terminals “Dishy McFlatface,” a reference to “Boaty McBoatface,” which caught headlines back in 2016. 

The “Boaty McBoatface” meme was born in 2016 when the British scientific research agency NERC launched an online crowdsourced contest to determine the name of its new polar research vessel. The ship, which was among the most advanced in Britain, received numerous name suggestions, the most popular of which was the amusing “Boaty McBoatface,” a moniker suggested by former BBC presenter James Hand. While the ship was ultimately named the RSS David Attenborough, an onboard drone was later christened as “Boaty McBoatface” nonetheless. The name has lived on in the internet since. 

References to Boaty aside, Starlink’s Terms of Service also included some rather unique sections, the most notable of which was written under “Governing Law.” In it, Musk’s private space enterprise explained that users of Starlink must recognize that Mars is a free planet and not governed by any Earth-based government authorities. While meme-worthy on its own, SpaceX’s mention of Mars’ autonomy does highlight the company’s intense focus on reaching the red planet within the coming years. 

“For Services provided to, on, or in orbit around the planet Earth or the Moon, these Terms and any disputes between us arising out of or related to these Terms, including disputes regarding arbitrability (“Disputes”) will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of California in the United States. For Services provided on Mars, or in transit to Mars via Starship or other colonization spacecraft, the parties recognize Mars as a free planet and that no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities. Accordingly, Disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement,” SpaceX noted. 

In a way, “Dishy McFlatface” and Terms of Use that reference using Starlink in Martian soil are perfectly on-brand for Elon Musk and his private space enterprise. Musk, after all, has been pretty open about the idea of using Starlink satellites to eventually establish internet connections on Mars. The project will of course likely take several more years, but it is quite difficult to deny that the idea is quite practical. 

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SpaceX’s Elon Musk entertains ‘Flag of Mars’ featuring Falcon 9

SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk have their sights set on taking humans to Mars in the near future, and much of that involves fairly traditional engineering challenges like rocket fuels, engines, and payload capacities. However, the creativity and fun that’s been fused into the mission by the commercial space company definitely makes it stand out against industry peers. In that same spirit, Musk now looks to be entertaining an official ‘Flag of Mars’ design, and one of the first contenders features SpaceX’s flagship rocket, the Falcon 9.

Spaceflight photographer John Kraus recently shared a blog post on his Patreon account providing insight on the ups and downs of his profession. “I wrote an extensive piece for my @Patreon supporters about capturing Falcon 9 transiting the sun on Tuesday: How I did it, some (very) candid thoughts on the photo’s overwhelming reception, and why scrubs are a not-fun but worthwhile part of the process,” Kraus wrote on Twitter alongside the referenced photo.

In the post, Kraus was specifically highlighting SpaceX’s recent Starlink launch that was scrubbed several times before successfully taking flight. The popularity of the photo that resulted combined with Musk’s familiarity with his rocket company’s regular photographers seemed to both garner the CEO’s attention and inspire a suggestion for the image’s future. “Maybe this should be the flag of Mars,” Musk tweeted.

SpaceX has made significant progress in recent days with Starship, the company’s rocket that will ferry passengers to Mars. In early August this year, a full-scale prototype of the rocket successfully launched about 500 feet into the air and landed in a similar manner as its sibling, the Falcon 9. Much higher and more daring attempts, a 12-mile-high hop, for instance, are next on the schedule. Notably, a version of Starship aimed for use on the Moon is also in the works.

Musk has previously detailed his plans to build a city on the red planet by 2050 and fill it with one million people. To accomplish that goal, at least 1,000 Starships would need to be built, each ferrying 100 people and launching at least three daily. “Megatons per year to orbit are needed for life to become multi-planetary,” Musk previously explained. The long journey has also meant that entertainment plans were a must, including fine dining, something the CEO mentioned when he first introduced his long-term Mars vision.

SpaceX has also joined in creative projects aimed at closer locations in space, namely the Moon. In a project called “Dear Moon,” the spaceflight company has partnered with eccentric Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa for a privately chartered trip around our lunar neighbor in 2023. Artists have been invited to apply for the chance to join the journey as a source of new inspiration for their work. Returning to the flag idea, perhaps engaging the public will be a part of creating an actual ‘Flag of Mars’ as well. While one idea may already be in the running, there would certainly be many more willing participants if given the opportunity.

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SpaceX’s Gwynne Shotwell makes Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list for 2020

Time Magazine’s annual “100 Most Influential People” list has named SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell among its 2020 picks. Appearing under the “Titan” category alongside other famous names such as Sundar Pichai of Alphabet/Google, Shotwell’s 18-year career with Elon Musk’s private spaceflight company was highlighted by former astronaut and first woman to walk in space, Kathryn D. Sullivan.

“She is not only a quintessential engineer with a passion to build things, but also a “people engineer” who thrives on working with colleagues and customers,” Sullivan wrote. “Gwynne Shotwell is helping to launch our future, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.” The high-powered executive was also credited as being an instrumental part of SpaceX’s historic firsts of launching, landing, and recovering commercial spacecraft as well as the first commercial launch and recovery of astronauts.

Time’s “Most Influential” list has been running for nearly 20 years, and multiple staff members of the publication are involved in lengthy discussions about the annual selections. “We see the TIME 100 as more than a list,” detailed Dan Macsai, the TIME 100 editorial director.

“It’s a community of hundreds of leaders from across the years and around the world whose visions can guide us and whose achievements can bring us hope.” This year’s list was a bit more unique in both its creation process and names picked due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the former involving Zooms and Google Meets, and the latter from the inclusion of a record number of doctors, nurses, and scientists.

Gwynne Shotwell’s storied career stands as an embodiment of success for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, especially over the last decade. Her position at SpaceX began with a call from Musk asking her to apply for a position as Vice President of Business Development, after which she was interviewed and hired immediately. Shotwell’s prior career experience includes working as an engineer for the Aerospace Corporation and leading a wide array of analytical studies for government agencies geared towards space policy.

Altogether, the COO has used her arsenal of high-valued skills to build a solid customer base at SpaceX, among many other successes. For instance, Shotwell was instrumental in working with Musk to win around $2 billion dollars from NASA for commercial resupply services to the International Space Station, saving SpaceX from bankruptcy in 2008. Her promotions to COO and President soon after followed. Shotwell continues to lead the spaceflight company towards even more monumental achievements which will soon include missions to both the Moon and Mars.

You can watch Gwynne Shotwell’s famous Ted Talk detailing SpaceX’s plans to ferry humans around the Earth in rocket-powered vehicles below:

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SpaceX fan creates LEGO Crew Dragon spacecraft, and it’s pretty awesome

SpaceX made history this year with its Crew Dragon Endeavor mission in becoming the first private astronaut transportation service, and now superfans can help bring a 1:35 scale version of the spacecraft used to stores as an official LEGO product.

The successful mission, named DM-2 (Demo 2), hurled veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard a Falcon 9 rocket into space where they docketed with the International Space Station (ISS) for about two months. A LEGO model designed by user BooCrackers12 seeks to accurately portray the DM-2 hardware details for SpaceX fans, including two mini figurines representing the travelers. Also included is the cargo trunk, the Dragon capsule itself, and a removable nosecone.

The Dragon LEGO module is posted on the company’s “Ideas” page wherein creative types can design their own brick sets. Once complete, the online community votes in support of the models they’d most like to see be brought to shelves. There are several tiers of qualifications to keep a model in the running, but after reaching 10,000 supporters, LEGO will review the project for approval as an official product.

The modeler who made the DM-2 mission has also created several other space-oriented LEGO sets that have garnered various levels of support. A SpaceX Dragon 1 design was posted in May and currently boasts over 1000 supporters, and mini versions of the NASA Mercury capsule and Israeli satellites are published as well. Of course, this recent set isn’t the first time one of Elon Musk’s companies has garnered LEGO fan attention.

In December last year, Tesla Cybertruck fan BrickinNick submitted a very detailed (and partially functional) set to the Ideas page portraying not only the pickup, but the CyberQuad as well. That set additionally included figurines of Musk and Cybertruck designer Franz von Holzhausen, with the latter holding a sledgehammer and a steel ball to poke fun at the mishap during the Cybertruck unveiling in November. In only a month, BrickinNick’s design earned the coveted 10,000 supporters. LEGO’s official review in was reportedly in May, and their decision is still pending.

You can review and support the Crew Dragon Endeavor model here.

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Tesla and Space Force make comedy gold together in new show

There are so many technology arenas that Elon Musk plays a major role in that mashup potentials are everywhere, especially in pop culture. Space Force, a new Netflix original comedy series poking fun at the United States’ newest military branch, is one of the latest places where the innovative CEO can find his companies being referenced. Surprisingly, it’s not a direct SpaceX plug, but rather the payload the rocket launch provider put into orbit during one of its most famous missions to date: Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster.

In Episode 2 of Space Force, titled “Save Epsilon 6,” a Russian adversary damaged the department’s recently launched satellite. While looking for nearby orbital objects that could provide assistance, “a Tesla” is mentioned along with a subsequent graphic displaying an animated cutout of the original Roadster’s shape. Sadly, Starman didn’t make the silhouette. Also of note was the inaccuracy of the Roadster’s position. According to WhereIsRoaster.com, the electric vehicle is currently some 113 million miles from Earth in orbit around the Sun.

Curiously, and flirting with gossip, another nearby satellite in the image is named “X-12” which, as close followers of Elon Musk would know, is similar to his newborn son’s name, X Æ A-12 (changed to X Æ A-Xii for legal reasons it seems). Admittedly, this reference would be a bit of a stretch, even if it were on purpose. However, being that A-12 was the designation of the SR-71 super spy plane’s predecessor (and the baby’s namesake according to momma Grimes) and NASA’s secret shuttle’s designation is X37, the writers’ naming may not have been so random and semi-coincidental after all. (It probably was.)

(Credit: Netflix)

Musk’s inspiration also seems to have made its way into Episode 3 of Space Force, titled “Mark and Mallory Go to Washington,” wherein the two main characters are called to testify for a congressional committee. During a series of questions regarding the department’s budget request, one member inspires a Musk-like response from General Naird (played by Steve Carrell):

“General Naird, your entire attitude seems to be, “Give us money, and don’t look while we militarize space… Your scientist is nodding,” the member challenges.

“It is a condition…drinking bird syndrome,” Naird first replies, then pauses before making his actual response. “Look, space is hard.”

“Space is hard?” the member retorts. “If you haven’t settled on a motto yet, may I suggest that become the new Space Force motto?”

Quite honestly, it’s not a bad suggestion given the number of times the phrase is uttered by those in the industry. The commander of the real US Space Force has actually repeated this same sentiment on a few occasions, once in reference to an Iranian boast about its satellite imaging capabilities that were later revealed to be a tumbling webcam.

Speaking of the existing Space Force, which Musk has expressed his approval of as a precursor to a Star Trek-style Starfleet, its plans look to be moving along well. Since its establishment on December 20, 2019, with the signing of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, the Force has put together its headquarters and begun recruiting from current US Air Force personnel and US Air Force Academy graduates. During May, some 8,000 airmen volunteered to switch their service, and 86 graduates from this year’s Academy class were commissioned into the new branch.

The Space Force has also formalized its customer-provider relationship with SpaceX during the recent GPS III (Vehicle 3) satellite launch aboard a Falcon 9, representing the branch’s third launch mission overall since its establishment. Now that the Air Force Space Command has been redesignated as the US Space Force, the service’s relationship with SpaceX will continue on as launch support with the 45th Space Wing in Florida. The Wing’s first support mission under the Space Force designation was also a SpaceX launch, specifically with a payload of Starlink satellites.

With Space Force already having so many ties to Musk and company, it wouldn’t be surprising to see many more SpaceX-linked references in Season 2 of Netflix’s show.

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